Gutsy Blues beaten at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United 3 Wycombe Wanderers 0
Vital Wycombe would like to thank guest writer Dale Jenkins for the following report.
Three second half goals put an end to a stubborn defensive rearguard performance from Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon as they were deservedly beaten by Sheffield United.
A trip to Bramall Lane to face the promotion-chasing Blades was always going to be a daunting task, with the hosts set on avenging their 1-0 defeat at Adams Park earlier in the campaign.
Gary Waddock`s team selection and tactics centred around a 'park the bus` strategy, with Danny Foster, Leon Johnson, Louis Laing, Dave Winfield and Grant Basey forming a five man defence. Poor Stuart Beavon ploughed a lone furrow up front, with Whichelow and Strevens providing support from the wings, and Matt Bloomfield and James Harper in the centre. Foster could count himself fortunate to be recalled, and it was a pity not to see Gareth Ainsworth involved at all after his recent return to form.
The game began with a pattern that would continue throughout; the home side dominating possession and looking to break down a spirited Wycombe wall.
Clear cut chances were initially at a premium although it seemed only a matter of time before the pressure told. A moment of excitement around the 20 minute mark saw Beavon turn and fire the ball wide before the Blades' waves of attacks towards Nikki Bull`s goal resumed their normal service.
Winfield appeared to be playing a sweeping role making plenty of crucial last ditch headers and clearances to deny the dangerous front pair of Evans and Cresswell. United had long since realised the Chairboys were here for a stubborn, gritty point and began to come closer, with Kevin McDonald fizzing a swerving drive inches past the post with Bull rooted to the spot.
A few more efforts cleared the crossbar before the referee blew for half time to the immense relief of the travelling faithful, who were joined by some Birmingham and Charlton supporters keen watch a match after their own Yorkshire-based fixtures were postponed.
The second half began with Evans missing a fantastic opportunity, firing into the side netting at the back post when it looked easier to hit the target. More stubborn defending continued to frustrate the hosts, before two brief forays forward saw Harper fire narrowly wide and Beavon test Simonsen`s gloves. It was however a brief alteration from the status quo.
The continual assault on the visitors` goal soon started again and the deadlock was finally broken on 67 minutes. It arrived in fortunate circumstances with a cross deflected into the path of substitute Will Hoskins who slotted it low past Bull.
One might have expected this setback to immediately trigger a tactical rethink given the Blues' negative mindset, but again manager Gary Waddock was perhaps guilty of being too slow in rejigging the formation. Just seven minutes later this feeling was heightened as Evans showed good footwork before turning home a cross from Lecscinel Jean-Francois. The game was up.
Waddock continued to delay his decision-making before eventually introducing Matt McClure as a partner for Beavon, and the newcomer might have scored had he connected with a free kick from fellow substitute Anthony McNamee who looked bright after his own introduction.
As it was the final score line gave a flattering look to the hosts, McDonald completing the scoring in the last minute with a cruel deflected effort.
It is hard to criticise too many individuals as the game plan was carried out very effectively for 65 minutes and the Blades' better quality told in the end. It's always going to be hard to compete against sides like Sheffield United, looking at today`s attendance of 17,165 and the quality of their strike force. Frankly, another telling indictment is contrasting the excellent Stephen Quinn in the hosts' midfield, presumably on a far heavier wage, compared with the industrious but ultimately technically inferior Matt Bloomfield. It`s just how it is.
It is definitely time to move swiftly on and brush this one under the carpet. Today`s defeat will be fully forgiven and forgotten if it is followed by three points against Yeovil on Tuesday night.
Ratings: Bull 6, Foster 5, Laing 6, Johnson 6 (McNamee 6), Winfield 7, Basey 5, Strevens 6 (McClure n/a), Bloomfield 6, Harper 5, Whichelow 6 (Lewis 5), Beavon 6
Writer: Dale Jenkins